Tim Bradley’s Furious Battle with Ruslan Provodnikov May Make Him Star at Last


By Ivan G. Goldman

Ringside in Carson, California –Tim Bradley’s narrow victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in a rock’em, sock’em battle of wills proved he has the skills and heart of a true champion.

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Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Lots of fans had been down on the WBO welterweight title holder for winning a split decision over Manny Pacquiao last year that they didn’t think he deserved. Of course blaming him never made any sense. He didn’t score the fight, but we’ve seen this illogical scenario repeated over and over. Somehow the boxing world confuses the fighters with the people holding the scoring pencils. Think about it. How many times have we watched network tuxedo crews tear into boxers in post-fight interviews because they didn’t like the decision? The judges pick up their paychecks and sneak off without comment, and the winning fighter gets a microphone stuck in his face and is called upon to defend their work.

All the post-Pacquiao ill will got the best of Bradley for awhile, pushing him into prolonged depression. The more he said he beat Pac-man fair and square, the more grief he took from the public. Saturday night he erased much of that ill-founded ill will. He’s held world titles in two divisions, but against Provodnikov he proved that a true champion’s heart beats in his chest. Rocked over and over from the first round, he fought through it and came back to fight intelligently and valiantly, landing big shots of his own.

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Provodnikov, a Russian with bricks for hands, was terribly upset at the decision, but he will soon learn that he was transformed in one night of fury from a fighter who was practically unknown in the U.S. to a somebody in the best sense of the word. HBO would have to be crazy not to want him back, and don’t be surprised if rival Showtime is already plotting to steal him.

Although Bradley won on all three cards, if referee Pat Russell had scored what was clearly a knockdown in the first round properly, giving the challenger a 10-8 round, the two scores of 114-113 for Bradley would have been 113-113, and Bradley would have kept his belt with a majority draw instead of a victory. At least that’s the way it looked in the Home Depot Center. In a sport of millimeters and split seconds, boxing pretends it’s in the nineteenth century and that no one has invented instant replay. Consequently, a knockdown that put Bradley on queer street and had him stumbling all over himself, was somehow scored a slip.

Both fighters took terrible punishment and repeatedly plunged right back into the fray. Bradley appeared to take round ten off, and he needed it because Provodnikov, who sank to 22-2 (15 KOs), scored a clean knockdown in the last few seconds of round twelve. If Bradley had been drawn into big exchanges in the tenth he might have been too weakened to regain his feet in the twelfth.

I’m assuming that the Russian would have made it through additional exchanges because he appears to be one of those guys who, if you shoot him, it would just make him mad. Bradley is more like a mortal human, but he has superior boxing skills when he’s not getting drawn into a war. Using them, he kept himself in the fight. But by getting pulled into those mutual poundings “Desert Storm,” 30-2 (12 KOs), also made plenty of new fans. You can bet on it.

Rematch anybody?

Reading Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable {Permanent Press, 2012) is a fine experience the author wishes for each and every one of you. So buy it. Information HERE

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